An experiment is a product
My perception of a successful startup had to always contain some of the following factors: being in the right place, right time, with the right people, and the right product plus a lot of hard work. Which if you think about, only measures the results out of pure luck and trial & error. However, what Eric Ries did was to create a scientific method for startups. What he wrote was a way of replicating the performance of successful startups, with the method of Build-Measure-Learn, no longer depending on luck, but rather, in a structure.
From this book, I will take three main things:
- An experiment is a product.
- Validate your ideas
- Pivot or Persevere AKA Should I stay or should I go?
An experiment is a product
First thing we need to understand is that a product is an experiment. It is something that we get right through trial, error and careful planning. This can be seen in the Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop. -Ideas-Build-Product-Measure-Data-Learn-
It all starts with an idea; we build it to create a product which will be measured to obtain data and learn from the information. Eric Ries explains that our current creation process involves researching first, creating second, and trying the complete product third. However, this long process tends to leave us with a complete product and zero knowledge if the customer will like the product. Ries explains a more effective way of creating a product by building it side to side with the potential customers. This is done through validated learning.
Validate your ideas
Ries talks about the advantages of building a product that will shape and adapt to customer’s feedback. If you are creating something completely new, customers won’t really be able to tell you what they want. A good way to know what customers want is to create it out of their feedback. Create a product, and through validated learning you will be able to see how customers react, learning from their feedback which will allow you to improve the product.
Here’s two quotes from Steve Jobs explaining this idea in different interviews:
“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”. –Steve Jobs. Interview with Inc. Magazine for its “The Entrepreneur of the Decade Award” (1 April 1989)
“But in the end, for something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” –Steve Jobs As quoted in BusinessWeek (25 May 1998)
I had read Steve Jobs’ biography and never really understood what he meant by “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” It was not until I read Lean Startup that I understood that if you are creating a new product, and you ask customers what they want you will get a variety of answers that will be completely different from one another. However, if you start with a Minimum Viable Product, customers will be able to guide you through what works, what does not and what needs to be improved.
Should I stay or should I go?
In the book this section is called Pivot or Persevere but after some inspiration while writing this essay from The Clash I decided to call it Should I stay or should I go?
One of the hardest parts in life is knowing if your idea should continue or if you should change it. This is my favorite part of the book because the author explains that pivoting does not mean failure. But rather, that you understand what does not work with a product and are able to shift into a new path. Pivoting does not mean failure because it is taking you towards the final product. As long as we keep validating and learning we will be able to know when is the right time to pivot, and once the product is right, we will be able to persevere.